A new space for student entrepreneurs launched in Cambridge last week when Anglia Ruskin University opened its Startup Lab, at the same time rejecting any claims that it was just one more entrepreneurial initiative amongst so many in the city.
Anglia Ruskin is determined to become synonymous with entrepreneurship across the UK and has even set out a target in its corporate plan for the next three years to get seven per cent of its university leavers setting up their own businesses by 2014, that's around 2,800 graduates.
The Startup Lab is one of several measures taken by the university to embed entrepreneurship at Anglia alongside others like the £30k Big Pitch competition and the £50k Enterprise Fellowship Scheme and is seen as key in cultivating the right entrepreneurial culture and mindset amongst the students.
"People have asked, 'Why?'," said Walter Herriot, a "collaborator" at the Ashcroft Business School and the Centre for Enterprise Development and Research (Cedar) and present on launch day. "'Not another entrepreneurial initiative, there's so many already, entrepreneurial initiatives for everything. Why do we need something else?'
"Cambridge is a bright spot for entrepreneurs, but if you look at what makes up the entrepreneurial mix, it's mainly science related. The Cambridge cluster, or Phenomenon, is about 1,200 companies and 14,000 people, which are mainly companies out of the scientific arena.
"Very few businesses have exploited what I call incremental innovation, taking existing technologies, or even in the creative industries, but not everyone can be a rocket scientist. We have to be holistic and support every opportunity.
"Startup Lab, together with the other opportunities at ARU, is important for Cambridge and for UK plc. We have to make the best of what we've got and it's a real contribution to the area."
The Anglia Ruskin incubator was originally earmarked for St George House, a building next to Cambridge Guildhall, right in the heart of the town, though not on campus. It seems issues regarding the use of that space for incubation purposes prevented that from happening and forced Cedar to look elsewhere.
Elsewhere turned out to be three former broom cupboards on the East Road campus. Some walls were knocked down, a coat of whiteboard paint applied and 10 work units with full broadband connection as well as printers and phones installed.
The idea is for Anglia students to use it as a drop-in point so it can become the focal point for the entrepreneurs at the university. Though much smaller than originally hoped, they've managed to squeeze in a mini 'boardroom' and it's readily accessible to students as it's on campus.
The whiteboard paint, which covers every wall in the Lab, may also prove to be a master stroke, a place to give vent to young entrepreneurial minds bubbling over with intent and ideas.
"The Startup Lab will make a stunning contribution," said Professor Michael Thorne, Anglia Ruskin's vice chancellor who was on hand to cut the ribbon for the Lab. "It will be a source of advice and infrastructure, but for me, it's that advice that's key.
"This is a country of small businesses and I do not think the majority are technology companies and I think we can materially make a contribution to our own patch."
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